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Evos: The cure to the common fast food joint

Students praying for healthier burgers and fries will be happy to know their prayers have been answered by Evos – not a Greek deity, but a restaurant with a new take on typical fast food.

In less than a month, Evos will open a new store in the University Collection Shopping Center at 2774 E. Fowler Ave., about a block from campus, according to a company press release.

The new location will continue the practices that made the company’s reputation: healthier fare, such as shakes made with organic milk, fries containing 50 percent to 70 percent less fat and many items that are vegetarian- and vegan-friendly.

Co-founder Dino Lambridis describes the restaurant as fast-casual, similar to Chipotle or Panera Bread, and said the price range is comparable to those establishments.

“You can get lunch (for) between $6.50 and $9.50, depending on what you order,” he said.

But Lambridis would rather focus on what he thinks makes Evos different.

“We go way beyond what Chipotle or any other fast-casual restaurant does. We buy free-range, all-natural beef, as many organic ingredients as possible,” he said. “We recycle materials and print with soy-based ink instead of petroleum-based inks. We don’t use grills or deep-fryers (because) it’s healthier.”

All of this, along with energy efficient, eco-conscious designs and stores, make Evos a “model citizen,” according to Lambridis.

He thinks this approach will work particularly well among the student population because, as he said, “when you’re young and idealistic – progressive – you look at things that make life and the world better, and connect with them.”

Many students agree. Mike Perenich, a senior majoring in philosophy, looks forward to patronizing a business that appeals to responsible consumers.

“I welcome a business that is socially conscious and health-conscious, and not inclined to kill you for your money,” Perenich said.

Joel Brown, a senior majoring in mathematics, said the smoothies are great and the menu is varied in a way that makes Evos “different from other fast-food places, in a good way.”

The idea was born out of necessity. As Lambridis tells it, he and co-founders Alkis Crassas and Michael Jeffers were driving, looking for burgers “without the after-effects,” when they realized there weren’t any. They knew then there was a niche yet to be filled in the fast-food world.

The three men spent about four years testing their recipes, doing research and accumulating debt before they opened their prototype store in 1999.

Since then, they have opened five stores nationwide, three of which are in or near Tampa.

Some area restaurant managers are worried. Others are not.

Roosevelt Stillings, a manager of the Chili’s nearest to Evos’ new location, says that, “the way the economy is,” anything could cut into their business.

Rafael Leon, manager of Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries, said his establishment is also concerned with serving healthy food.

“Everything we serve is fresh – not frozen – and is made without preservatives,” Leon said.

But the manager of Tijuana Flats, Patrick Daly, said restaurants similar to Evos, like Chipotle and Qdoba, have not proved serious competition for his employer.

“We are healthy, too. We now offer whole-wheat tortillas and power-light menu items that feature low-fat cheese and fat free sour cream,” Daly said. “We just switched to fryer oil that has no trans-fats, and all our meats are hormone-free. All our ingredients are fresh. I’m not scared.”

Neither is Lambridis.

“We’ve been (offering socially and health conscious food) for years … because we believe in it. This is who we are,” he said.